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White Doves cast announcement: Portadown dancer Leigh Alderson to perform with Danila Marzilli

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

SDC are proud to announce that the ballet's title Doves will be performed by Italian-Scots dancer Danila Marzilli and Portadown's very own Leigh Alderson, who is set to return home to perform in Belfast’s first new ballet at the MAC this August.

Gazing back on history to look towards the future, the Doves play a vital role in telling the story of the first march for peace and the formation of the Peace People in 1976. With a mesh of abstract and narrative storytelling, audiences experience moments from history woven together by two White Doves performed by Leigh Alderson and Danila Marzilli.

Leigh Alderson. Image by Sasha Onyshchenko.

Returning home: Leigh Alderson Born and raised in Portadown, Leigh Alderson dancing at The Donna Whitten Dance School, and later The Susan McMillan Ballet School. After training with both teachers for three years, Leigh left his home at age 11 to train full-time at The Royal Ballet School in London for eight years. With a successful career spanning Canada, the UK, Ireland, Hungary and Germany, Leigh brings a wealth of experience back to Northern Ireland to perform in Six Dance Collective’s newly created ballet White Doves at the MAC Belfast from 3-5 August 2023.

Leigh Alderson. Image by Bradley Henderson.

Leigh said, “At this point in my career, working on new choreography is one of the most exciting parts of being a dancer. Performing in White Doves brings both physical demands and the emotional aspects of dancing a work created about Northern Ireland. It’s an important moment for me to dance this home-grown story on a Belfast stage.”

Beginning his career at Scottish Ballet, Leigh has worked with several esteemed companies and prolific choreographers including Atlantic Ballet Theatre of Canada and Grands Ballets Canadiens, performing in works by Didy Veldman and Jiří Kyliáns. Later, he joined Matthew Bourne’s company New Adventures to perform Swan Lake and guested with Cork City Ballet and Ballet Ireland closer to home. Most recently, Leigh worked for The Royal Ballet Fehervar before joining his current position as soloist in Ballett Theatre Nordhausen in Germany.

White Doves choreographer Ruaidhrí Maguire said, “Leigh paved the way for ballet dancers from Northern Ireland, especially for men and boys in dance. I founded Six Dance Collective to champion local artists and local stories, and what better way to prove ballet is a viable artform here than with a performer of Leigh’s calibre on stage.”

Danila Marzilli. Image by Paul Cameron.

A Northern Ireland debut: Danila Marzilli Dancing across from Alderson, Italian-Scots dancer Danila Marzilli completes Maguire’s pair of birds. A graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and finalist of BBC Young Dancer 2019, Danila is currently with the Baltic Opera Ballet of Gdansk. Recent roles include the fiery Mercedes in Don Quixote and the title role in Cinderella, performing across from White Doves choreographer Ruaidhrí Maguire as The Prince. White Doves will be Danila’s Northern Ireland debut.

Danila Marzilli rehearsing with the Baltic Opera Ballet. Image by Krzysztof Mystkowski.

Danila said, “I am so looking forward to my Northern Ireland debut with Six Dance Collective’s new work. I am especially excited to be collaborating with the inspiring artists involved in the process in this new environment. I’m really delighted and grateful to be part of this new ballet.”

White Doves is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s National Lottery Small Grants Programme, PRS Foundation, the Vaughan Williams Foundation and Hinrichsen Foundation.

Six Dance Collective gratefully thanks the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for facilitating Leigh and Danila's roles in the project.

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Development Officer for Theatre and Dance said, “Thanks to funding for good causes raised by National Lottery players, the Arts Council is pleased to support this ground-breaking debut production from Six Dance Collective, a new contemporary ballet company led by artistic visionary, Ruaidhrí Maguire, in collaboration with gifted composer Amelia Clarkson. This compelling production, combining classical dance and abstract movement language with local social-political themes, will undoubtedly hold much appeal for audiences when it opens in August.”

Danila Marzilli as the White Dove. Image by Krzysztof Mystkowski.

The production provides the opportunity for a Junior Company of 28 aspiring dancers from across eight counties to perform Maguire’s new choreography side-by-side on stage with professionals Marzilli and Alderson. These Junior Cast members will gain valuable first-hand experience of professional dance company life, and take on roles including Peace People founders Mairead Corrigan, Betty Williams and Ciaran McKeown, and the wider Belfast community.

Ruaidhrí said, “We are really grateful to our funders for bringing White Doves to life, especially to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland who are facilitating Leigh Alderson and Danila Marzilli’s leading roles in the project. This support will bring these powerhouse dancers to our audiences here in Belfast and provide this training opportunity to our dancers of the future.”

White Doves runs for four performances at the MAC Theatre, Belfast from 3rd-5th August. The performance on Friday 4th August includes a post-show Q&A with the creative team and principal dancers. Tickets are available from The MAC here.

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